Time for a confession. We've been angry all these years. Europe has been sliding around behind the wheel of the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] Focus RS for years. Here in America--land of the free, dammit--we've been RS-free.
Time for that to end. The Focus RS is finally here, finally free to drift its way completely into our hearts. But does it? Was it worth the wait? Is it better than the Volkswagen Golf R or the Subaru WRX STI?
Sounds like time for a video road test.
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Right up front, the Focus RS looks like it just dropped out of the latest Fast & Furious movie. Everything's oversized: the rear wing, the exhaust outlets, front end air intakes that feed the RS' hungry intercooler and brakes.
Inside, everything feels a little old. This is the same interior we first saw in the 2012 Focus. Some special bits set it apart: there's a flat-bottomed steering wheel, Recaro seats with big fat bolsters, extra gauges, and lots of RS logos. Lots of them. It's a good thing they don't charge by the pound.
The star, of course, is the gutsy, slightly crazy drivetrain. Three hundred and fifty horsepower shoots out of its turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder through a six-speed, short-throw manual gearbox to all four wheels.
With 23 pounds of boost huffing through the turbocharger, power comes on hard and strong in the Focus RS. Rev it all the way to the 6,500-rpm redline, and the exhaust pops and crackles just like it would halfway through a rally stage. It’s fast, too. With a 0-60 run of just 4.7 seconds, the RS makes you look down to remember you’re in a Focus, not a V-8 muscle car.
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2016 Ford Focus RS
It's a slidey beast. The all-wheel-drive system can vector torque side-to-side, and can move power around front to back--but it hasn't quite ditched torque steer. The suspension is a discouraging mix of bouncy and overly firm on the street. If anything on your body can jiggle, it's going to jiggle in the RS.
On the track it shines. It has an uncanny knack for sniffing out an apex and finding the shortest way to get there. If you're into showboating, a drift mode will chew up as many tires as you can afford.
Priced from about $36,000 the Focus RS comes standard with Brembo brakes, Recaro seats, and Sony audio. Options? There aren't many, but we'd start with the Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, and leave the heated front seats and navigation for the daily driver.
The bottom line: The Ford Focus RS has been worth the wait. It's as close as most of us will ever get to racing the rally circuit, or to drifting like a pro.